Jeremy Moore: Army veteran teaches students life lessons through fitness
A little practice often goes a long way. Just ask Jeremy Moore, a veteran from the 82nd Airborne Division.
Eight years ago, at age 24, he fell into a dry well nearly 60-feet deep during night patrol in Afghanistan. While recovering from his injuries, simply walking the perimeter of his small Wilmington backyard was a triumph.
The night he fell down the well, his helmet knocked him unconscious. When he woke, his buddies used a rope to pull him out. “It took me 45 minutes to climb out, but it felt like four and a half hours,” he says.
Full of adrenaline and unaware, Moore had suffered serious injuries to his head, back, and legs yet he continued his mission. When he returned to the barracks he was in pain and lost his ability to walk.
It took Moore (also known as Coach Moore) six years to “rebuild” himself. He had to learn to walk again while battling depression and self-doubt.
“When I got out of the army I was in a very dark place,” Moore says. “I was in pain all the time. I was physically, mentally, and spiritually broken. I went from being at the top of my game to living in my parent’s house, needing the help of a cane and a service dog to get around.”
Moore received several awards from the U.S. Army, including a Combat Action Badge and an Army Commendation Medal. “The army taught me to take risks and not to be afraid to challenge my himself.”
Today, he is the co-founder and executive director of More Than Fitness. In its third year, the purpose of the nonprofit is not only to teach high school students self-confidence and trust through physical fitness, but also help them manage negative emotions and mental stress by practicing mindfulness and meditation.
“We don’t lift weights to be good lifters, we don’t meditate to be good meditators,” says Moore. “We practice these things to grow, to learn how to be strong, how to fail and recover, and how to reflect. Just because they (students) didn’t deploy to Afghanistan doesn’t mean they don’t have mental hurdles to jump.”
Moore has helped more than 100 area youths—from students to school athletes—who simply want to try out his program. He and More Than Fitness co-founder Stacey Richardson rely on fundraisers and donations to keep the program free. The money pays for space rented at Diamond State Fitness in Wilmington.
Jalia Lawrence, 18, a Mount Pleasant High School graduate and the first African American female to be part of Widener University’s softball team this fall, says that because of Moore she now can clean lift more than her body weight of 135 pounds and deadlift 205-pounds. She can also better manage her emotions and reactions.
“Instead of dwelling on the grade I got and giving up or doubting myself, I think about how I can do better next time,” says Lawrence. “I think about coming back to my breath.”
An alumnus of Mount Pleasant High School, Moore’s idea for the nonprofit developed while working out at the school’s gym to recover from his injuries. Mount Pleasant athletic coaches Randy Holmes and Dionie Lum served as mentors.
Eventually, Moore started lifting weights with the students, getting to know them, and giving them fitness tips. They in turn began to listen to the guy with the cane, impressed by his story and recovery.
“Working out with these kids gave me an opportunity to serve again,” he says. “It gave me something bigger than myself to work for.”
—More Than Fitness partners include Ed Mulvihill, owner of Peco’s Liquor Store, and Gia O’Keefe, owner of Diamond State Fitness. You can find More Than Fitness on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.